Space junk as dangerous as weapons: Scientists

Last Updated: Friday, December 24, 2010 - 15:20

Washington: Space debris-hundreds of thousands of pieces of space junk including broken satellites, discarded rocket stages and lost spacewalker tools-that crowd the corridors of Earth orbit now, are equally dangerous as the weapons, warn scientists.

A new security report has warned that these objects are capable of doing some serious harm to working spacecraft if they hit them, and even pose a risk to people and property on the ground if they fall back to Earth, reports Fox News.

The new Space Security 2010 report released by the Space Security Index, an international research consortium, represented space debris as a primary issue.

Consideration of space debris as a major threat may cause the United States to take a more global view on the threat of space weapons, said Brian Weeden, technical adviser for the Secure World Foundation, an organization dedicated to the sustainable use of space.

"This is an important realization, because before that much of the security focus was on threats from hostile actors in space. This is the first [national policy] recognition that threats can come from the space environment and nonhostile events," explained Weeden.

These bits of garbage in space could eventually create a floating artificial barrier that endangers spaceflight for any nation, said experts.

The Department of Defense’s US Space Surveillance Network has traced more than 21,000 objects larger than 4 inches (10 centimeters) in diameter. However, estimates have suggested that there are more than 300,000 objects larger than 0.4 inches (1 cm), not including several million smaller pieces.

But the problem has become much worse since Kessler began studying the issue decades ago with Burton Cour-Palais, a fellow NASA researcher.

Their 1978 research described how the debris cloud might continue expanding on its own because of an ever-higher probability of collisions that built upon each past collision.

The overall traceable amount of space debris grew by about 15.6 percent, according to the Space Security 2010 report.

NASA and other US agencies could use national space policy as a chance to aggressively pursue solutions, such as using spacecraft propelled by solar radiation (solar sails) or other objects to take down a few select pieces of debris, said experts.

"If we only bring down four objects per year, we can stabilize [the debris field] if we carefully select those most likely to contribute to debris," Kessler told Space.com.

ANI



First Published: Friday, December 24, 2010 - 15:20

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